Café Society is director Woody Allen’s latest film about old Hollywood – or sort of. Set during its golden age (30s, 40s), its main protagonist is Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a naïve young New Yorker looking to make his way by moving to Hollywood to work under his uncle Phil (Steve Carell in a wooden performance), a high powered Hollywood agent.
Leaving a loving Jewish family in New York, which includes his mother Rose (an excellent Jeannie Berlin) and a gangster older brother (Corey Stoll), Bobby arrives in LA, and taken under his uncle’s wing. To help him get acclimated to his new surroundings, Phil tasks ‘Vronny’, his secretary (Kristen Stewart) to show him the sights. Before long, a romance ensues and some rather complicated triangles come into play.
Café Society is watchable at best, with Vittorio Storaro’s gorgeous photography, its glamorous ensemble cast (Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Sheryl Lee) and Allen’s trademark impeccable pacing. However, the cast is mostly sidelined to the rafters.
Aiming seemingly for that classic, light, airy romantic comedy – the likes of Twentieth Century (1934), but without it’s creative punch and slapstick. It’s peppered with cynicism throughout, perhaps to intrigue a moviegoer discussion into the imagined realities of love and romance in the Hollywood jet-set. But it all feels a bit hollow and ultimately, forgettable.
Perhaps Allen’s point is to stress the emptiness of the rich Hollywood life, but it’s hard to care for any of the main characters who don’t evolve much. It does feel a bit like Allen doing a monologue on Hollywood, love and death to himself. But that in itself, unfortunately, does not make a great, or even a good film.
The one redeeming quality about the film are the scenes with Bobby’s immediate family, which were too few and far in between. The family dynamic offered the most effective comedy throughout and reminded me bits and pieces of 1987’s award winning Moonstruck.
In the end, the Dofmans were the only characters I could sympathize with. And by film’s end, Bobby was most definitely not even a part of them at all.
So what do you think of Café Society? Let us know what you think!
36 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Café Society (2016)”
Great review Ruth! I get the feeling that it’s beautifully shot but ultimately hollow. It feels like Carol haha though many loved it. I’ll keep this review in mind when I watch the film!
Hi Jia! This is actually my friend Vince’s review. I haven’t been interested in anything Allen’s done since ‘Midnight in Paris.’ I haven’t seen ‘Carol’ yet, did you review that one?
Oops haha! I loved loved Midnight in paris,its one of my favourite movies 🙂 Yeah I did! I’m interested to hear your thoughts when you do catch it. It felt empty for me.
Hey send me the link to your Carol review. I love Blanchett but I’m not that fond of Rooney Mara who always appears cold to me.
Sure! Thanks for checking it out 🙂 https://filmandnuance.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/carol-review-ineffectual-art-that-doesnt-connect/
Rooney Mara has a sort of charm that works in some roles but yeah she seems kinda cold.
Forgot to say that there are some spoilers!!
I would like to read that Carol review as well as I haven’t seen it!
Here ya go! There are some minor spoilers though!
I had a feeling that this one won’t be any good. I’m going to see it next week but I’ve mainly been disappointed by anything I’ve seen of Allen lately (the rare exception maybe being Midnight in Paris) and I guess this one won’t be any different… Great review, though! 🙂
Hi Veronika! I actually haven’t seen anything Allen’s done since Midnight in Paris which I love! It seems like all his recent films are more of the same and tend to be more style than substance.
Yes, that’s definitely the case. They’re beautiful to look at from a purely aesthetic point of view, but I feel like he has run out of things to say and it’s difficult to make an engaging film if you have absolutely nothing to pass on to the audiences… however, Midnight in Paris was indeed a very nice surprise among his latest films 🙂
I have to admit I haven’t seen many Allen films of late. I have seen and liked some of his 60s, 70s and 80s work and a few in the 90s. I really tried to like this film …
I hate to see the up and down reviews for this film. I really want to see it. Unfortunately it still hasn’t opened in my area (go figure)!
If it’s any consolation, the film IS watchable and some viewers would probably disagree with me. To be honest, at the end of the screening, I thought it was entertaining. It just gave me an empty feeling towards the characters. It’s gorgeous to look at, and fairly lighthearted so …
I’ll probably still give it a shot and be optimistic. I’ll definitely tone down my expectations though.
Hi Keith, that’s surprising this movie hasn’t opened in KY. How about Anthropoid? I just finished reviewing it for next week, I think that’s right up your alley.
I’m in Arkansas and actually it opened this weekend! As for Anthropoid, just wrapped my review too. Hope to have it up tomorrow afternoon.
Sheesh I kept mixing up the two states, sorry!! Oh cool, let’s compare notes then. I just posted my review of Pete’s Dragon, I loved it!
Nice review Vince, I’m not into Woody Allen’s films, I don’t even remember the last film of his that I saw. I didn’t know this movie even existed until a few days ago so of course I’ll probably never see it. Ha ha.
Maybe Ruth will let us go on a Conjuring 3 screening!
Lol! You know what’s funny, I don’t really watch horror movies anymore but I did see The Conjuring 2 only because my girlfriend wanted to see it. I just got tired of horror movies, I mean there are some that tried to bring something new to it but most of them are all the same.
I definitely don’t see you watching this one 🙂
Ahah yeah, Ted is notorious for refusing to see any period dramas. If it’s got no action, it’s not for Ted 😉
Cafe Society Squad!
Nice review. It’s an okay Woody Allen flick. Not great, but fine enough.
Dan O., agreed!
Hey Vince, great to see you writing for FC again! I’ll never forget your Birds post ;-). (Which, btw, Flixy, you need to add under Vince’s Guest tab (grin).
Sounds like the typical WA movie. The only film of his I really love is Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Purple_Rose_of_Cairo. I think you’d enjoy it if you haven’t seen it. WA won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and it won the BAFTA for Best Film. Midnight in Paris is a distant second for me.
Thanks Becky! I haven’t seen Purple Rose of Cairo but I recall in my youth that it was very well regarded indeed.
You nail it in this review, I completely agree! –Louisa
Have heard *very* bad things about this…
I have to disagree with your review. After watching Cafe Society I have to say that Woody Allen is back. After a few flops (Irrational Man, Magic in the Moonlight or To Rome With Love, just to mention a few examples), Woody Allen comes back in full form with a charming romantic drama/comedy, as he has accustomed us to. I think the success of the movie rests in that Woody Allen returned to do something more like Midnight in Paris than in the above mentioned flops. The movie is set between the West (Los Angeles) and East (New York) coast in the 1930s. So, what in Midnight in Paris was the European cultural elite of the 20s, in Cafe Society has been replaced by Hollywood in the 30s. The movie in essence has the typical features of a Woody Allen movie: a neurotic lead who is an alter ego of the real Woody Allen, complicated love relationships, existential debates, jazz music and even some cultural snobbism. In this movie, all this elements fit very nicely to create a pleasant film that is very nice to watch.
I invite you to see my full review on Cafe Society at https://mrcharlesblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/cafe-society/
Thank you for your comment. I totally understand your view – this movie was pleasant to watch and did feel like an Allen film especially in pacing among other things. I can see it working for some folks. It just felt hollow for me but there was a moment I felt caught up in it to be perfectly honest.
I appreciate your reply. I know it is still far from the best Woody Allen movies, but I found it really enjoyable to watch (particularly, considering his recent flops).
We really enjoyed this movie. If you are tired of bodice ripping and things blowing up every two minutes, can appreciate irony and the fact that things don’t always work out but you will always cherish the memory, then you might enjoy it too. It is comedic and bittersweet and satisfyingly nostalgic for people enjoy recreating an era, or who remember when men had hair on their bodies and shaved their faces, verses the perpetual 5 o’clock shadow and the waxed body look. I like how it worked with the development of relationships over over time and the art of storytelling rather than illustrating, in graphic mind-assaulting detail, every single minute detail. It was tantalizing to see Kirsten Stewart out of the vampire genre.